Are We There Yet?

When sports memorabilia seller Nick Persons (Ice Cube) spots the lovely divorcee Suzanne (Nia Long) standing outside the party store where she works in downtown Portland, OR, he is smitten. He has just picked up his new late-model Lincoln SUV and is feeling good indeed. But he finds out from his colleague Marty (Jay Mohr) that she has two kids and loses interest. But on the way home, Suzanne’s car breaks down and Nick stops to help her. This leads to Nick bringing Suzanne to and from work as her car is repaired.


Suzanne’s children, Lindsey (Aliesha Allen; School of Rock) and Kevin (Philip Bolden), are on the lookout for Mom’s boyfriends and pull all kinds of stunts to get rid of them. They still love their father and don’t want anyone to get in the way of a reunion. So, when Nick turns up, they play their usual pranks, even though he makes it known he doesn’t think much of kids in general and feigns a lack of interest in Suzanne.


Suzanne’s ex is supposed to take the kids for New Year’s so Suzanne can go to Vancouver and host a huge party. As Nick drives her to the airport, the ex-husband calls and says he is sick. Suzanne almost cancels the trip to be with the kids, even though she may lose her job over it. But Nick steps up and says he will bring the kids to Vancouver to be with her.


Thus starts a hilarious kid-trip from hell, an updated family version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, if you will. You can add in horseback, too. And that beautiful late model Lincoln SUV that Nick thinks is the most important thing in the world? Toast.


Are We There Yet? is a funny, touching story about two really smart kids who have  been abandoned and lied to by their dad. Nick is reluctant to get involved at first, but realizing how lonely the kids are for a father and how unwilling they are to trust another man, he steps up to the plate – right along with his bobblehead baseball muse, Satchel Paige (John Witherspoon), who gives more or less good advice all along the way.


Are We There Yet? is an enjoyable movie for the family with pro-social themes of  steadfastness, character, and renewing faith by being there for one another. The four main characters all learn something as they journey along. Some of those lessons are learned in pretty darned funny ways, too, think typical kid scenarios. The audience loved it (they screamed with laughter a couple of times, but you’ll have to see it to find out which parts those are). One of our nuns went to see it twice. Now, that’s an endorsement.


Some media literacy notes: the Lincoln SUV product placement is very obvious; it would seem that the company wants us to think it is rated combat ready (is that the same as kid – proof?) from the treatment it gets here. Nevertheless, as product placement becomes more and more part of our movie-going experience, it’s good to notice what’s being sold to us even by suggestion, and to talk about it. On the other hand, the analogy of Nick’s attachment to the car and the lifestyle it represents is obvious, and it works. In order for a love story of any kind to work, the characters have to sacrifice something for the other. The loss of his high style ride symbolizes Nick’s transformation into a caring adult (if cars are truly the extension of man, then what happens to the car, happens to the man in one way or another.)


The cultural diversity represented in the film is refreshing as well.